Buying Tips

5 Tips for Choosing Your Teen’s First Car

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In Alberta, the legal age for licensing is 16 years old.

Crazy to think, huh? One minute your kid can’t keep their own head up and the next, they’re asking to borrow the car for the weekend. Eventually, though, your teenager is going to want some wheels of their own, and they’re going to need your help. Here are five tips for choosing your teen’s first vehicle.

#1 Safety Comes First

According to the British Columbia Auto Association, drivers 16-19 are 45% more likely to be involved in a crash than experienced drivers. That’s why it’s imperative you make sure your teen’s vehicle is safe. 

While you want to focus on buying a larger, heavier vehicle, size and weight aren’t the most important safety factors to watch for. Features like Rear Cross Traffic Alert which warns of approaching vehicles when you’re backing up, and Forward Collision Warning, which lets drivers know when they’re about to hit a vehicle or object in front of them, are essential for a teen’s first ride.

Safety features like Electronic Stability Control and Curtain Airbags are standard on most models. However, try and include as many driver-assisted technologies as you can, even if you have to climb a couple of trim levels to get them. Some manufacturers even offer stand-alone safety packages, an option for buyers wanting to buy a base model while still including the latest safety tech.

#2 Research With Your Teen

Buying a vehicle for the first time is an important milestone in your child’s life. In addition to learning about the auto industry (i.e. fuel economy, safety ratings, etc.), they develop useful budgeting skills and financial tools they can use later on in life. That’s why this process should be a collaborative one.

Provide guidance for your teen every step of the way. Help them establish a budget. Explain terminology and discuss things like credit scores, credit reports, and insurance and registration fees. Make sure they’re involved in every test drive and comparing the pros and cons of potential vehicles.

Finally, have your teen sit in on every interaction you have with a salesperson. Teaching them the skills to navigate a sales negotiation will be one of the most important takeaways they’ll have from this experience. The more involved your teen is, the more confident they’ll feel the next time they walk into a dealership.

#3 New or Used?

You could ask your teen what type of vehicle they’d prefer. You probably already know their answer, though. The thing is, is buying new the best economical decision?

On the positive side, new vehicles are more reliable, cost less to maintain initially, and come with the latest features. You can also customize a new vehicle. Plus, most new rides come with a bumper-to-bumper manufacturer’s warranty, which means in the event something goes wrong, you’re financially covered.

As for buying a used vehicle, the biggest upside is an economic one; most times, a previously owned vehicle costs less than a new one. Insurance costs are also lessened and you don’t have as big of a financial investment at stake as you would with a new vehicle due to depreciation.

While the choice to buy new or used is up to you, most financial experts and recommend buying your teen a used vehicle, within reason. A vehicle between three and five years old will come with a more affordable price tag and still include effective safety technology.

#4 Prioritize Fuel Efficiency

Even with an after-school job, your teen probably doesn’t have a lot of expendable income. So, the less money your teen has to spend on gas, the better. Besides reducing CO2 emissions and being better for the environment overall, a fuel efficient vehicle can save you hundreds of dollars a year in fuel costs.

Teach your teen how important it is to keep an eye on changing gas prices. Have them download an app on their smartphone to help! For example, GasBuddy is a free application that shows you the 10 closest fuel stations near your location and their prices.

#5 Drivers Education Saves You Money

Because teenagers are more likely to be involved in a crash than experienced drivers, their insurance premiums are higher. Buying a safe, reliable, and previously owned vehicle will help you lessen the price of insurance.

It’s important to note, however, that the most significant contributor to lessening a teen’s insurance rates is drivers education. Enrolling your teen in a defensive driving program will teach them useful tips they can use throughout their lifetime. Plus it saves you money. AMA offers an excellent driver’s education program, aimed at teaching new drivers (not just teens) the skills they need to feel confident behind the wheel.

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